Eddy McGilvra talks training Titans defensive linemen and other NFL stars

How a player trains and prepares during the offseason is oftentimes one of the biggest predictors of on-field success. There are no overnight celebrities in the NFL. Hard work during the summer leads to personal and professional achievements during the season.

Eddy McGilvra is an NFL, NCAA and high school defensive line and EDGE coach that works with some of the best young players in the NFL. McGilvra cut his teeth at the legendary Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California. His impressive list of clients today includes Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark, Jets defensive lineman Quinnen Williams and a slew of 2021 draft picks such as Jaelan Phillips and Kwity Paye.

McGilvra recently spoke exclusively with Broadway Sports about his work with Titans defensive linemen Teair Tart and Naquan Jones, how he began training NFL players and how he approaches veteran players differently than rookies.

JM: You’ve trained some of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. Your client list includes guys like Kenny Clark and Quinnen Williams. You also worked with an impressive rookie class prior to the 2021 draft including high profile prospects such as Jaelan Phillips, Kwity Paye and Levi Onwuzurike. How did you get your start in the art that is training NFL players?

EM: I was actually in charge of football operations at Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California back in 2018. It’s a world class facility just north of Los Angeles. It’s a huge training facility that Kobe Bryant actually partnered with back in the day. It was called The Sports Academy and then he came in and they added “Mamba” to it.

I wanted to get into the professional and college game. I was actually coaching at a local junior college at the time. I was in the JUCO ranks. I had a lot of JUCO and high school guys that I worked with during the offseason. Kobe’s team over at The Sports Academy approached me and we began working together. They brought me in and my regular clients began training there as well.

We would get the odd pro or high level college prospect. It turned out that the guys liked how I was teaching and coaching them. Things just started to snowball from there. I was very blessed in that sense. My first ever predraft class had Quinnen Williams in it. I had really just started on this new journey and here I was training the eventual No. 3 overall pick in the draft. I was working with Quinnen when he was still coming out of Alabama. The rest was history. Every player I worked with in that class also got drafted. They’re all on NFL rosters today. It set me up for a great future.

JM: That’s amazing. You’re actually training a pair of Titans right now. Second-year player Teair Tart and rookie Naquan Jones are currently working with you. Those are two players that are very intriguing in my opinion. I think both of them have a great chance to not only make the roster, but to really contribute as well. What have you seen from them throughout this process?

EM: I think both of those guys are big steals for the Titans. They got both of them through the undrafted free agency process. It says a lot about their ability to scout talent. Those guys are going to come in and produce right away in Tennessee. Teair Tart is incredibly athletic for his size. He’s a big body that moves really well. He’s very smooth. He has really good feet. His hands are very advanced. He’s extremely powerful. It’s funny, Tart and Jones are actually quite similar. Naquan is a bit bigger than Tart is. He has longer arms. We’re still working on his technique. He’s fresh out of college still. If both of them stay healthy, they can produce in 2021.

JM: We love to hear that. What are some of your favorite workouts or drills to put an NFL defensive lineman through?

EM: That’s a good question. I prefer to pick the brain of a player before I begin putting a plan in motion. Everybody works differently and I want to understand each individual before we hit the field. As a coach and trainer, the ability to adjust is everything. I can’t change or mold their approach. I have to adjust to how the player trains and works. I really enjoy working on functional movement. I love doing that with both the interior and outside guys. I love the footwork aspect of pass rushing. It’s an underrated part of the game in my opinion. Everybody wants to work on their hands, and that’s great, but for me, the get off comes first. Let’s work on how your feet move based on how the offensive lineman sets. Are they sliding to you? Or maybe it’s a jump set? We have to be able to move quickly and win with your feet. That’s my favorite part of it.

JM: What’s your philosophy on keeping players fresh during the season? I’ve interviewed enough trainers to know that it’s not about throwing much weight around.

EM: I don’t even get them in the weight room. My work is all field and film based. My biggest thing is to always get the most out of our time together. We don’t waste time. We don’t waste any reps or movements. We aim to be fluid with our session. We show up to work. I’m very open with what’s on the schedule each and every day. I’ll break it down for them. We’re going to do four reps on this side and so on. That’s how we approach our live reps. It keeps the guys locked in mentally. That’s how we get the most out of our reps without burning them out.

JM: That makes sense. Do you help with their diets as well? How do you approach their off-field habits in general?

EM: I don’t touch their diets, but I do discuss off-field habits with them. What are you doing in your free time? What does your work-life balance look like? Are you staying focused on your training? Are you being consistent in training? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you watching enough film? We have those conversations. Those things are very important. When you’re not training, having a balanced lifestyle is key. It goes back to not burning out. You know how this game is. It can take a toll on you quickly. We talk about balance. Be consistent, but find a routine that works for you.

JM: I love that. It’s so important. Do you approach training a rookie differently than you do a veteran?

EM: That’s a great question. I’ll speak to the veterans first. Typically speaking, veterans already know what they wanna do. You’re not likely to teach a veteran something he hasn’t seen before. It’s more about polishing and perfecting technique with them.

For example, Kenny Clark really wanted to work on combinations off of a power rush this year. Offensive lineman started approaching him differently. It got to a point where his finesse type of swipes, chops and clubs weren’t necessarily his number one rush anymore. He started to use more bull rushes with success. This past offseason, we focused on combinations off of a bull rush. We worked on hand placement and where his feet need to be. That’s a peak into the veteran approach.

With rookies, they’re often coming from D-I or a Power Five school. They think they know it all sometimes (laughs). That’s just how a lot of them are. They think they know everything. They eat a slice of humble pie once they reach the NFL level, though (laughs). They start to realize that there’s a lot that goes into the art of pass rushing and playing D-line.

I’ll talk about Kwity Paye with the Colts. He came to me and he was very well rounded. He had a deep toolbox. He has a lot of pass rush moves. We focused on one move and a counter off of it. He doesn’t need five or six moves. He’s so gifted, fast and athletic that we could just work on this one move. We knew that if he could really focus on that, he’s going to be All-Pro for years to come. It was the same thing with Jaelan Phillips and Levi Onwuzurike. Those guys want to do a lot of different things, but at the end of the day it’s about finding what you’re good at and perfecting it. A young player should spend their first few years really honing in on getting good at those things.

JM: I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, what do your plans look like for this coming season?

EM: I’m looking forward to traveling and attending games all over the country. I obviously didn’t get that opportunity last season. I’m excited to fly around and watch my clients perform in person during the season. I have a big list of games I’m hitting. I have clients spread around almost every team in the league. I’m going to travel around and watch a bunch of games. I’m going to Carolina for a few weeks during their home stretch to work with one of their defensive lineman.

Other than that, I’m just excited to see the final product of what we preach and teach on the field.

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